A walk on the green side

Living Well | Words: Jocelyn Pride | Photos: Eamon Gallagher | Posted on 28 August 2018

From bees to bikes to beans, a new tour through Melbourne’s sustainable streets is an insight into green possibilities. 

“Twenty years ago, if you talked about this sort of stuff you were classed a hippy. Today, sustainability is becoming mainstream,” says Robert Redpath, owner of Bee Sustainable, a niche store in Melbourne’s inner north jammed with inspirational ideas for home projects from beekeeping to cheese making.

Although Robert grew up with bees, it wasn’t until he completed a career as a university lecturer in IT that he returned to his roots. “My dad gave me a hive to look after when I was five and here I am many years later.”

73 per cent of Victorians prefer to buy from sustainable businesses.

Robert is one of the ‘heroes’ of a new guided walking tour, GreenMe Melbourne, an initiative to visit sustainable shops and businesses in a local area. “Sustainability isn’t an abstract thing,” says Claudi Sult, founder of GreenMe. “My aim is to open people’s eyes and see what’s possible.” 

Claudi started GreenMe Berlin in 2016. With the idea taking off in Germany, when she visited Victoria last year, Claudi immediately saw potential to expand her concept. “Australians really seem to care where their products come from. I knew once I started exploring, I’d find communities with a strong sustainable vibe.” 

Claudi’s instincts are good: Sustainability Victoria research shows 73 per cent of Victorians prefer to buy from sustainable businesses. Community awareness is gaining momentum.

Melbourne bee keeper
honey being poured into a jar
man holding quail bird

Bee Sustainable's Robert Redpath.

East Elevation's back garden is complete with quails.

We use every bit of space and waste to produce food for the menu.

In addition to Bee Sustainable, our small group visits five more innovative businesses tucked into old warehouses, shop fronts and alleyways along a stretch of Lygon Street, East Brunswick, often called ‘the green mile’.  

Behind the intriguing red door of East Elevation is a lofty space lined with distressed brick walls and greenery trailing through the wooden rafters. However, it’s the sweet smell of chocolate wafting throughout that’s most alluring. For East Elevation isn’t simply a buzzy cafe, it’s also home of the heavenly bean-to-bar organic chocolate factory Monsieur Truffe.  

And then there’s the garden to explore.

“We use every bit of space and waste to produce food for the menu,” says gardener Nick Browning. “The exhaust from the kitchen creates the right atmosphere for us to grow mushrooms in the roof space.”  

We then follow Nick behind the cafe where everything from fruit and vegies to a beehive and quails yielding around 50 eggs a week is squeezed into a green postage-stamp alley garden. 

Padre is to coffee what Monsieur Truffe is to chocolate, and here we learn about the process of roast fair-trade coffee beans that takes place behind the glass windows of the sleek minimalist cafe crowded with locals. 

We also head to The Boroughs where owner Alasdair MacKinnon shares stories of local artists who supply a range of exquisite gifts for his gallery, and Bikes Please, the brainchild of Ashley Jones, who’s “saving bikes from extinction” by building reliable and safe bikes from a mix of old and new parts.  

What happens in one part of the world has an impact on another.
Man working on bicycles in front of a workshop
man adjusting bike wheel spokes

Our last stop is eagerly anticipated. Noisy Ritual. A suburban winery using people power to stomp on Victorian grapes to create traditional-style wine. “We’re trying to demystify the wine-making process,” says winemaker Alex Croker. “By being involved, people can appreciate what it takes to make a good bottle of wine.”  

After sinking our hands (not feet) into a recently stomped-on tub of grapes, we sit around the bar and raise a toast to sustainability. One afternoon and a one-kilometre walk have uncovered a myriad of ways one small change can make a difference. “We’re all connected,” says Claudi. “What happens in one part of the world has an impact on another.”  

GreenMe Melbourne has launched a second walk in Fitzroy and plans are afoot for other metro and rural areas. 

Five more ways to turn green

CERES Community Environment Park 

Immerse yourself in one of the many workshops, community projects, volunteer programs or simply munch on fab food at this non-profit award-winning urban farm on the banks of the Merri Creek in East Brunswick. ceres.org.au.

The Farmer’s Place 

Reconnect with the land at this green gem near Torquay. Wander through the property for an insight into sustainable farming before sitting down to a paddock-to-plate lunch in the gorgeous cafe made from recycled shipping containers. thefarmersplace.com.au.

World’s greenest retail centre 

Keep an eye out for the opening of the innovative redevelopment of the Burwood Brickworks site that will have a totally green shopping centre complete with a rooftop urban farm and around 700 six-star sustainable residences.

Fair food forager 

Download the app or check out the website to make sustainable food choices. Developed in Australia, a series of icons makes it easy to find restaurants, cafes, grocery stores and places to forage from a growing list of Australian and international locations. fairfoodforager.com.au.

National sustainable living festival 

Mark next year’s 20th-anniversary festival in your diary (1 to 28 February 2019). Held in and around Federation Square, the festival is a showcase of ideas and innovations. slf.org.au.